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Sailors and Celebrities at 2009 Anguilla Regatta

Where else would you  find sports boats, cruising boats, famous 12-meter yachts like Stars and Stripes, Anguillian and Carriacou sloops and, yes, socialite Paris Hilton partying with the sailors? While other events count numbers, the Anguilla Regatta gets on with the job of providing the most Caribbean of regattas.

Caribbean Sailing Association President Cary Byerley gave the count-down on May 8 for the start of the first race and, with clean starts, it took just 20-minutes to get the four classes—Spinnaker, Non-spinnaker, cruising and multihull—underway.

With the first race heading towards the windward mark, Peter Parles of the organizing committee said, “It’s been a lot of hard work but we’re really excited. We’ve got great courses, great wind, and we’re looking forward to the next three days.” 

It was a treat to see the multihulls making an appearance this year. Two trimarans in particular thrilled spectators by flying hulls and roaring around the course at an incredible rate of knots. The battle between Eric Clement’s Open 40 Karibuni and the Ocean Lake Marine AB Blanca could have gone either way. But after three days of racing, Karibuni had racked up ten points, leaving Blanca on nine points after a disappointing DNF in the first race.

Saturday brought the first appearance of the St. Maarten 12-Meter Challenge America’s Cup boats, Stars and Stripes and True North IV. Since the first regatta in 2002, these boats have raced in what is now famously called the Battle of the Banks. One yacht is crewed by a team from the Caribbean Commercial Bank and the other by the First Bank of Anguilla. Going into the event, the score stood at three wins apiece and this year the gloves came off in one of the hardest fought races to date. At the end of the day, it was the CCB and True North who found the right breeze and secured the trophy.

The America’s Cup boats were again in action in the afternoon. This time, CuisinArt Resort and Spa took on a combined team from the Frangipani Beach Resort, Straw Hat Restaurant, Pump House and Medical Air Services Association, with the coveted West End Trophy going to CuisinArt sailing True North. The 12s had one more race to do, this time carrying individuals who had paid for a place on the boats. This was a first for the regatta and it is sure to be carried over to next year as all the proceeds went to the Anguilla Sailing Association youth sailing program.

Day two’s triangle/windward/leeward course gave the racers a serious workout, with the committee squeezing in four races. Breezy conditions in the lee of Anguilla made for tough competition between the sports boats with old antagonists Frits Bus, sailing Team Coors Light, and Robby Ferron, aboard Budget Marine. The two Melges 24s are always good entertainment, and even more so this year with Jan van den Eynde and his Open 750 Panic Attack thrown into the mix.

Thanks to a rare mistake by Bus, who started one race in the wrong class, Coors Light and Budget Marine finished the day tied on equal points, thus setting the stage for thrilling showdown on Sunday. Speaking after the race, Bus, who actually protested the race committee, said: “We lost one race because we started in a different class. For us it wasn’t clear what class we should start in. If there is confusion then it shows that there is something wrong in the race committee.” The protest was later thrown out.

The final day brought more exciting racing. On the way to the bottom mark, Bus favored the left of the course. This was a good call as it put his Melges into more favorable winds and ultimately gave him the race and series. The last race also marked a high point for Colin Percy. Sailing his Nonsuch 33 Cat Boat, Antares, the man behind the St. Maarten 12-meter Challenge racked up his sixth bullet for a perfect score and the overall win in Cruising class.

All the proceeds from the regatta go to the Anguilla Youth Sailing Program. So it was heart warming to see St. Maartener Sir Bobby Velasquez lead his crew of Anguillian youngsters onto the stage during the awards ceremony to receive first prize in Non-spinnaker class. “I took along four of the youngsters from the sailing school here in Anguilla and those kids are good,” said Velasquez. “They really want to learn and do everything right.”

During the awards ceremony, the local sloops began their annual race for the Sir Bobby Velasquez Trophy. Along with the trophy, points from the race also count in the overall Anguilla sloop racing series. This year’s trophy winner was Satellite. For full regatta results:  www.anguillaregatta.com.

Gary ‘Gaz’ Brown has sailed thousands of miles in a hodge-podge of boats.  His wonderings include two single-handed Atlantic crossings and numerous off-shore deliveries.  A journalist and yachting commentator, Gary hosts the marine show YachtBlast, which broadcasts twice a week on Island 92, 91.9 FM. St. Maarten.

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